Kylie Hutchinson on The Ever Expanding Evaluator’s Toolbox

My name is Kylie Hutchinson.  I am an independent evaluation consultant with Community Solutions Planning & Evaluation.  In addition to evaluation consulting and capacity building, I tweet at @EvaluationMaven and co-host the monthly evaluation podcast, Adventures in Evaluation along with my colleague @JamesWCoyle.

When I started out in evaluation 26 years ago, I was focused on being a good methodologist and statistician.  After deciding to work primarily with NGOs I learned the importance of being a good program planner.  Employing a participatory approach required me to become a competent facilitator and consensus-builder.  These days, the increased emphasis on utilization and data visualization is forcing me to upgrade my skills in communications and graphic design.  New developments in mobile data collection are making me improve my technical skills.  A recent foray into development evaluation has taught me the important role that a knowledge manager plays in evaluation. Finally, we are starting to understand evaluation capacity development as a process rather than a product, so now I need expertise in organizational development, change management, and the behavioral sciences.  Whoa.

HutchDon’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  Every day I wake up and think how lucky I am to have picked such a diverse career as evaluation. But with all these responsibilities on my plate, my toolbox is starting to get full and sometimes keep me awake a night.  How can I manage to be effective at all of these things?  Should I worry about being a Jack of all trades, Master of none?

Hot Tip:  You don’t have to do it all.  Determine your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. Pick several areas of specialization and ask for assistance with the others.  This help may come in the form of other colleagues or departments.  For example, if you think you need help with change management, sub-contract an organizational development consultant to your team.  If you work in an organization with a communications or graphic design department, don’t forget to call on their expertise when you need it.

Hot Tip:  Take baby steps.  If you want to practice more innovative reporting, don’t assume you have to become an expert in communication strategies overnight. Select one or two new skills you want to develop annually and pick away at those.

Hot Tip:  If you can, strategically select those evaluations that will expose you to a new desired area, e.g. mobile data collection or use of a new software.

Rad Resource:  Even if you’re not Canadian, the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Competencies for Canadian Evaluation Practice provide a great basis from which to reflect on your skills.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

7 thoughts on “Kylie Hutchinson on The Ever Expanding Evaluator’s Toolbox”

  1. Kylie,

    Your post really resonated with me as I am just beginning to get a handle on what it means to be an evaluator and, honestly, I’ve found myself overwhelmed more than once! It really does seem that to be an effective evaluator, you need to have a broad understanding of many different areas. I appreciated, however, that you point out that outsourcing areas is vital to providing an effective evaluation. If I am able to work from my strengths and get help in my areas of weakness, ultimately the evaluation will be better for it. You acknowledged, too, that professional growth is important in that I can’t merely say “I’m not good at that”. Instead, I need to make a plan for one or two areas to work on and be purposeful in increasing my skills in those areas.
    Thanks for being practical and encouraging at the same time.

  2. Hi Kylie,
    Thanks for sharing your experience as an evaluator who is also a life long learner according to the work that you have done to keep pace with the “fluid” practice of evaluation. Your comment about participatory evaluation resonated with me as I am currently a master’s student who is using that approach to work towards improving a program that is utilized in my school. What do you see as the biggest dilemmas that exist in this type of approach and how have you overcome them in your practice? Do you still primarily try to advocate for this type of approach when working with groups of people?


  3. Kenkinika Hayden

    Evening Ms. Hutchinson! I took the liberty to view your company website. As a student currently studying program evaluation, I often wonder how an independent consultant would market themselves to the public. Upon observation, it would seem as though your company reflects a homestyle -savvy approach to its profession. I was amazed at how in-tune you are to modern outlets (Pinterest & Twitter) that speaks of your understanding to broadening and expanding your demographics. As to your post, I agree that we in most cases can not be a master of ” all things”, I do recommend that we should hone our strong suites and surround ourselves with a strong team of people whose skills enhance our abilities to effectively consult and evaluate. Great regards!

  4. Career development is a serious commitment. The advice listed in the hot tips section is very applicable to having a successful career. Determining your strengths and specializing in several areas of a career is crucial to long-term success and sanity. Focus on what you can contribute to a project and outsource the other skills to a sub-contractor as needed.

  5. Good evening, everyone,

    I decided to subscribe to the blog as a way of gaining professional development as a graduate student. Throughout the course of my studies, I have found that change management, program evaluation, and statistics apply across all disciplines, not just the business, educational, or scientific arena. In my opinion, when everyone applies the principles, be it in an academic setting, business setting, or otherwise, they will be much more successful at accomplishing their goals.

  6. Margo Schmitt-Boshnick

    I believe that learning is the cornerstone of our practice and, for me, the continual learning curve is one of the most attractive aspects of the business we are in.

  7. I share the joy of the diversity of practice. It is one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay with the work for as long as I have. An added benefit of the breadth of disciplines is that something new is always arising somewhere, in evaluation or in organizational development or in facilitation. New learnings often can be applied in another part of the work. Keeps things interesting.

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